CALEDONIA ‑ The Caledonia Corvairs have returned to the ice for the 2016-17 Jr. B hockey season to begin their quest for an unprecedented fourth-straight Sutherland Cup, but coach Mike Bullard will have to do it with virtually a brand new team.
There have been wholesale changes on this year’s team after almost all players from last year’s champions have gone overage in the off-season. Joining the Corvairs this year will be brothers Guy and Christian Polillo who bolted from last year’s Brantford ‘99ers to join the Corvairs. Also coming over from Brantford is Evan Bidenti.
“I knew we were getting not only quality players, but quality young men in the Polillos,” says General Manager Brian Rizzetto.
Guy and Chris are the sons of former Colonial Hockey League, Brantford Smoke star Paul Polillo who was once called by a Toronto sports writer as “the greatest player never to play in the NHL.”
Adam Craievich comes from the OHA Jr. A where he played last year for Guelph and Ottawa.
Also joining this year’s Pro-Fit Corvairs from the OHL are Brandon Lindberg, Anton Trublin, Joshua DeFarias, Zachary Core, and Christian Clark, a 7th round draft of the London Knights of the OHL.
Young players like Christian Montachino, Mike Finger, Andrew Lance, Jacob Harrison, Holden Hrysko, Austin Ulett, Erik Nelson, Marino Moro, Christian Papineau, Daniel Chenard, Steve Harvey, and Alexander Gonyou have also been in the lineup for the exhibition pre-season.
“There’s a lot of new heads in the helmets,” says Rizzetto. “We are pleased with what we have so far but there are still a few fish out there we will be going after.”
One thing that has remained constant is the Corvairs ability to ice four solid lines, although Rizzetto admits this year may see their third and forth lines will be checkers to neutralize the opponent’s strengths.
They have a very young defence but so far they have been impressive, although it is an area of concern.
Even with all the new faces, the Corvairs are 3-1 in the early season including Saturday night’s 8-3 win over Niagara Falls at the Haldimand Arena.
The Brantford connection recorded the first goal of the game as Guy Polillo scored from Christian Polillo and Evan Bidenti only seven seconds into the game. That goal stood as the only one of the first period but the new Corvairs were bent on making an impression on the Caledonia brass and added five more goals in the second scored by Andrew Lance, Jacob Harrison, Ryan Punkari, Christian Polillo and Brandon Lindberg to bury the Flyers 6-0 with 20 minutes left to play.
Bailey Fletcher scored shorthanded at 3:56 and it was 7-0 for the Corvairs. Niagara went on a three-goal binge in the middle of the period but Quentin Maksimovich closed the game at 8-3 with a powerplay marker. Steve Harvey recorded the win in the Caledonia net facing 28 shots. Niagara Falls’ goalie Adam Dentico had a much busier night facing 41 Caledonia shots.
Friday night, Sept 16th, the Pro-Fit Corvairs took down the visiting Fort Erie Meteors 7-3. Wednesday night they suffered their first loss of the new season, with a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Stratford Warriors at the Western Fair Community Centre, in a game where they were outshot 41-18. Despite the loss, Harvey put in a fine effort in goal. Adam Craievich scored both Caledonia goals.
Saturday Sept 10, the Corvairs faced in Leamington and came out with a 4-1 win with goals scored by Zach Core, Mike Finger, Craievich and Bailey Fletcher.
After four games played in the 2016-17 season, the Corvairs are in second place heading into this week’s games. St Catharines is in first with 7 points.
“We really have no stars this year so we will have to be counting on a evenly balanced team,” say Rizzetto.
He is very hot on his goaltenders with Daniel Chenard and Stephen Harvey and advises this year’s fans to watch Chenard especially. “He’s a young goalie making his debut in the GOJHL having made a name for himself in Midget in Halton Hills and Kitchener.
The Thorold Blackhawks will be in Caledonia Friday night, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m. when they hope to continue putting wins in the bank for what could be a long season. From there they go to Ancaster to face the Avalanche for the first time this year Saturday night.